Barrett stretched his body. It was a bit sore from the fall, but it would work fine. However, Barrett still couldn’t imagine making it to the top of the cliff. So, he stopped looking up. He reached out in front of him. The path he was on before had been fine, he just hadn’t been doing it right. In a minute or two he found himself back where he was. Just above him… that little bit had been where Master Hykel grabbed. It was just within his reach. He grabbed, and pulled… no, that wasn’t quite right. He extended his legs, and took another step up. His arms were just there for support… Master Hykel had already told him that arms were weaker than legs.
That helped, and he made it a bit further. His head was only slightly tilted back, just enough so that he could see the next spot to climb to. He had to concentrate to remember where Master Hykel had climbed, but without that he would have no idea. HIs memory was pretty good when he tried… but he still couldn’t remember everything from just seeing it once.
Eventually, he chose wrong, and a small bit of rock broke off, causing him to slip. Somehow, he just barely held on, and returned his foot to where he had been before. If he fell now, would he die? Barrett wasn’t sure. He avoided looking down, so he couldn’t tell. Likewise, he didn’t look up very far. He couldn’t afford to realize that he had made no progress. It was just one foot, one hand, one foot, one hand.
Barrett was wearing out, and he began to think he couldn’t do it. He was just a normal person. Well, the fallen son of a noble, which made him worse than a normal person in some ways. Could he really hold on?
The answer was yes. Over the previous weeks, Master Hykel had told him he could do more. There was that… and there was also more. Like the strange finger exercises he had been made to do, and the balancing on his toes on the edge of a log. He had been trained to be able to do this. Was it enough? Barrett didn’t know the answer to that, so all he could say was… it was enough. It had to be.
One arm, one leg. The hardest part wasn’t just holding himself up. It was finding the next place to move, then the transition. Along with that, there were other mental stresses, like the friction. His body rubbed against the cliff, his fingers scraped on the rock… even through the bandages. His feet rubbed against his shoes… the same shoes he’d had for a long time. He hadn’t thought to get new shoes when he had Simon buy him clothes. The shoes had already been bad, and then they were further worn by walking. In addition to that, his feet had blisters. He’d gotten used to them while walking, but now he really felt them. His shoes were even slippery. Finally, he could bear it no more.
He held onto the cliff with one hand and foot… and removed a shoe. Placing his foot on the cliff face directly, he felt cold and rough… but his foot fairly easily conformed to the cliff. Shakily, he did the same thing on the other side. Then, he continued climbing.
Barrett wasn’t sure if he’d made the right choice, since his feet weren’t used to not having shoes. It wasn’t long before they were bleeding… and slippery. That was a problem. He wasn’t sure what he could do, but he felt his bandages start shifting downward. He rubbed his leg against the cliff, and they shifted even more. Finally they were around his ankles, but they couldn’t really go further… except he saw them move on their own and wrap around his feet and toes, though he had to briefly pick each one up to let them get all the way.
Barrett almost laughed. Magic bandages. Then he sighed. That beggar probably hadn’t known what he had. If only he had been able to find him again… But it was too late now.
The bandages did a good job of soaking up the blood, and keeping his feet safe from further injury. They also had surprisingly good grip. His fingers were used more, but they also started to become raw… and the bandages began to cover them as well. Was it responding to his desire, or did the bandages just naturally cover injured areas? Before, he had always wrapped them where he needed them on his own, so he hadn’t discovered they could do this.
Well, he supposed it didn’t matter. He still had to get to the top of this cliff. One arm. One leg. Other arm, other leg. Finally, he reached the point where he could go no further. His muscles had given out. He recalled Master Hykel’s voice. It said, ‘you can do more’… but he couldn’t. He’d already hit his limit. He’d heard that voice. He’d done more. His hands and feet were numb, and he almost couldn’t tell that he was touching anything. It was starting to get cold. Had he been climbing long enough for the weather to change?
He didn’t have the energy to climb any further. If he let go, his hands would never grab again. But, if he stopped… he knew what would happen. He didn’t look down to see how high he was, but from this height he would die. His mind was drained from constantly trying to remember exactly where Master Hykel had moved. His consciousness and muscles could barely hold on. Well… perhaps he could do just one more. He might as well die trying.
His vision was blurry, and he couldn’t see the next handhold. He fumbled around with his hand, but it was so numb he felt nothing. He tried to grab, but it didn’t seem like he found any purchase. Then, he felt his body slipping, and with it his consciousness.